In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells a fascinating parable. In this story, the master calls ten of his servants and gives each of them ten minas – a mina was about three months wages – and the master tells them, “Engage in business until I come!” After the master becomes King he returns to find the first servant doubled what he gave him, ending up with 20 minas, the next servant earned five minas more, but the third servant did nothing.
Why didn’t this guy do anything with what he was given? What reason did he give?
“I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man…” Do you see how his concept of his master influenced what he did (and didn’t!) do?!
A.W. Tozer stated, “What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Why? Because it’s not just a matter of thinking! What we think about God greatly impacts what we do and don’t do!
What is your concept of God?
That can be a fascinating question to ask others. Once when my husband asked a group of college students, one replied, “He’s like a proctor. Always looking to see if you’re behaving right and every once in a while coming along, giving you hints to help you not make mistakes.”
Who wants to spend time with a proctor?! Do you see how key it is to find out what people’s concept of God is? Especially if we are inviting them into a personal relationship with Him.
But this is also true for believers – though we may have more difficulty articulating it. Thoughts of what our concept should be can often muddy us recognizing what it is – but much can be discerned from how we live and the choices we do or don’t make.
Whenever I start meeting one on one with someone this is always a key thing I’m seeking to determine – not necessarily by asking outright, but through observation. Can this ever give great insight into how to make the best use of our time.
Is she struggling with anger? bitterness? or anxiety? Struggling with wanting to control her life? Struggling feeling like she needs to be protective of her time, her energy, her resources, herself?
To just say, “stop it!” doesn’t help! There is far more going on than the behavior. In fact, if you focus on the behavior you may very well miss truly being of help discipling her. Remember the goal in discipling is to help someone learn how to do what she’s said “yes” to! To help someone learn how to follow Jesus and keep learning from Him in a life-changing, transformational way.
Now it may not always be possible to identify exactly where her concept of God is off – in truth, I’m not sure if this side of heaven anyone ever has a totally accurate concept of God. But just realizing there’s something amiss that’s hindering her from running in the path of His commands can really help get you going in the right direction – focusing on who the Lord truly is.
One of my favorite ways to do this (because it doesn’t just benefit those I’m meeting with but so fortifies my soul each time I do it!) is to take her to the first chapter of Genesis with colored pencils in hand. So many times when people think about this chapter either the creation-evolution debate comes to mind or the focus is on what was created.
But if you read through Genesis 1 together highlighting with a colored pencil each time God’s name is mentioned (or a pronoun referring to Him) does it ever become evident this chapter is primarily about Him! As one friend exclaimed, “He’s mentioned in nearly every verse!”
And I share how God is the main character in the Bible. Take any Bible story, for example, David and Goliath – that story isn’t primarily about David or Goliath but about the Lord. If it wasn’t for Him there would’ve been no story! Same thing regarding Jonah and the Big Fish! Without God, Jonah would’ve ended up a tasty meal!
So Genesis really is the Lord introducing Himself. If you never knew anything about Him but just had Genesis 1 and 2, it’s amazing what you can learn! Rather than giving a list of attributes, in these opening chapters God lets us see Him in action! First in all His power and majesty and wisdom creating everything, then through a smaller snapshot revealing how personal and relational He truly is.
So next we read back through Genesis 1 with a different colored pencil in hand, underlining all the verbs that tells us what God does. Afterwards we take a sheet of paper and make three columns on it. As we start sharing what we learn about God from Genesis 1, we write each observation down in the first column. Then we consider what are the implications for our life that He is this way?
Oh how I love doing this with people!!! It is so beautiful to camp out considering who the Lord has revealed Himself to be and why He’s chosen to reveal this!
Once we’re done I encourage my friend to take time on her own to go back through the list and consider how she has personally experienced the Lord being each of these things and to write out the stories, her stories that come to mind! What a powerful way to spend extended time alone with the Lord!
Then we close our time praying back and forth through our list of observations, praising God for who we’ve seen Him to be in Genesis 1 and in that context sharing whatever is on our hearts with Him.
It’s like the old story about counterfeit money – the best way to learn how to identify it is to become familiar with the real thing! The best way to identify counterfeit ways we think about God isn’t to focus on where we’re off, but to focus, meditate and reflect on who He has revealed Himself to be – both in His Word as well as personally to us through our experiences of Him.